As a board certified, membership card carrying commitment phobe, I have in the style of the Police, adopted a motto, which perfectly sums up my approach to making any type of social arrangement. Unlike the integrity soaked, cuff carrying folks working in law enforcement, rarely am I called on to ‘protect and serve’ however the need to release myself from the cuffs of agreed plans does mean that on occasion I do have to ‘shirk and avoid’. It is not so much the fear of encountering the unknown that keeps me chained to the comfort of my grey corner suite. But, enduring the Hades like heat of the Tube, only to arrive sweat soaked to a function at which few faces are recognisable, and those that are, embarrassingly fell victim to a poorly timed spell of late night Facebook ‘spring cleaning’ is a torturous prospect, to say the least. Especially when you consider that the thrilling alternative involves a threesome involving myself, Ben and Jerry.
So it was, with an anxious heart that I chose to forgo the passive pleasures of sofa based vegetation, in favour of an evening filled with the terror that is ‘Putting yourself out there’, and on this occasion I am truly glad I did.
Last Thursday Women in Journalism in collaboration with City University put together a seminar promising to give the inside scoop on ‘How to be an Intern’, and boy did they deliver. So here is my ham fisted attempt at a breakdown of the tips, tricks and info imparted by the panel, who were like literally more knowledgeable than a thousand Yodas.
It’s all about the Benjamin’s (or lack thereof)
The clinking, clanking sound of coins is a melody that organ grinder and monkey must dance to. Leaving many young writers contending with the difficulties of participating in unpaid work, while trying to study, and most importantly live. The consensus of the panel seemed to indicate that taking on unpaid ‘Work Experience’ rather than an ‘Internship’ may well be the more financially viable option of the two. Given that Work Experience tends to last for the time bound period of two weeks, allowing aspiring journalists to avoid committing to what seems like an endless procession of days and months.
Like the closing arguments presented to a jury, the experts at hand suggested the tried and tested method of weighing things up. Is it worth working for long term spells of no pay? When perhaps you could gain valuable experience on a student paper. Is it best to privilege getting experience at a national paper, when all that you might do is make tea? A local paper, may be just the thing, in terms of direct hands on experience.
Pick me! Pick me!
With regards to gaining a coveted place within one of the national graduate trainee schemes the panel were adamant that you know the paper and its writers. They also mentioned making sure that you Twitter follow some of the journalists who write for the paper you are applying to. (Preferably not a couple of weeks before). When applying, it might work best to your advantage if all covering letters were addressed to the Editor concerned with this job, and not the previous. They also suggested that it was important for any prospective intern to show a commitment to journalism and not flippantly indicate to an employer that this is what you see yourself doing for, like today, or possibly until you, like make it as a conceptual artist.
I got the part!
If you are lucky enough to be taken on, the panel could not stress enough the virtues of not being ‘annoying’, and by this they meant not expecting to be ‘entertained’ or ‘babied’. A little bit of waiting around, and thumb twiddling was entirely natural in the life of an intern, working in a busy London office. What is most important is that you learn to thumb twiddle with a smile and a can do attitude. Another bug bear were the interns who would write disparaging tweets and blog posts about their internship experiences. This for obvious reasons is a big ‘no no’. Journalism is a tiny industry, and I have been told that Journalists are particularly fragile, so the chances of you ever re-gaining employment after this type of outburst, would be very low indeed.
Take me on
During the seminar it was intimated that one of the key strengths of those taken on after Work Experience or an Internship, is the ability to come in with ideas, whether for articles or features. It was also said that producing finished, pieces of writing (used or not) never failed to impress. So it is a case of keyboards at the ready.
The Blog is mightier than the sword
Finally, there was much positive discussion about Blogging. The panel talked of, how Blogging not only showcased writing skills, but showed an ability to produce and upload content, Edit, Market and Design. Can I get an Amen.
Kudos to the event’s organisers and panel, for attempting to clear the impenetrable fog of Internships and providing young journalists with a BuzzFeed worthy slew of hacks. Given all the confusion internships seem to cause, this seminar was certainly needed. In case you were wondering, I decided to reschedule my date with a tub of Dulce Delish for a different night, although this being me, there is always a possibility that I’ll be a now show.